Bordeaux 2019 from barrel

The tasting notes!

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com

29 September 2020

Left Bank: Graves/Pessac-LéognanMédoc/Haut Médoc/Moulis/ListracCru BourgeoisMargauxPauillacSaint EstèpheSaint JulienSauternes

Right Bank and More: Bordeaux and Côtes AOC / Fronsac / Pomerol / Saint Emilion

And because the vintage ends in -9, two handy lists:

9 favorites (price no object): Château Brane Cantenac (Margaux), Clos l’Eglise (Pomerol), Château La Conseillante (Pomerol), Château d’Issan (Margaux), Château Montrose (Saint Estèphe), Château Mouton Rothschild (Pauillac), Petit Mouton (Pauillac), Château Pichon Longueville Baron (Pauillac), Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande (Pauillac)

9 (especially competitively priced) favorites: Clos du Marquis (Saint Julien), Château La Dauphine (Fronsac), Reserve de la Comtesse (Pauillac), Domaine de Chevalier Rouge (Pessac-Léognan) Château Grand Puy Lacoste (Pauillac), Château Lagrange (Saint Julien), Château Malartic-Lagravière (Pessac Léognan), Château Sociando Mallet (Haut-Médoc), Château Soutard (Saint Emilion)

Dear Readers,

Thank you for your patience in this COVID19 vintage that took precious time from what we all normally do.

Long overdue and hardly comprehensive, my Bordeaux 2019 barrel sample tasting notes mix top estates and less heralded, from the Left to the Right Bank.

I chose not to have many bottles shipped to Strasbourg, because I felt that one year “less hyped” for Bordeaux is refreshing and could mean a vintage better priced. As things stand now, many discounts (some really good ones), even though back vintages are available for comparable (or even lower) prices and will be sooner ready to drink. But 2019 seems well priced, with less “best-vintage-ever” buzz: Indeed, my impression from what I did taste is positive, as the tasting notes attest.

I did assess top Cru Bourgeois barrel samples from home, about which you can read here, and benefited from a Baron Philippe de Rothschild S.A. shipment, including Château Mouton Rothschild, to sense how at least one famous First performed from barrel.

Notes also reflect impressions from the Grand Cercle in Bordeaux last month and a trade tasting in Germany from July. Although the June trip to Bordeaux was mainly for a Decanter Magazine article unrelated to 2019 barrel samples, I visited a few properties for on-location vintage comments.

The Grand Cercle

The ever professional and gracious Stéphanie Delécrin of the Grand Cercle des Vins de Bordeaux guided me to a private room of Château Laroze in Saint-Emilion on Monday, 15 June for a daylong tasting. The space was shared with a merchant from Switzerland, and we assessed barrel samples from multiple Bordeaux appellations to get a “bird’s eye view” of the vintage. Not all the members of the Grand Cercle were present.

Stéphanie Delécrin of the Grand Cercle.

Created in June 2013 thanks to Alain Raynaud, the Grand Cercle unites 113 Right Bank châteaux and 51 from the Left Bank, and I always enjoy how the tastings are organized.

I also visited Domaine de Chevalier and Château La Louvière in Léognan and Châteaux Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Grand Puy Lacoste and Montrose in the Médoc. I lunched with Philippe Dhalluin, director of Château Mouton Rothschild, which included another fine impression of the Aile d’Argent 2019, only after it had been bottled: see here.

In July, I attended a fine tasting held in Wiesbaden Germany, thanks to Tobias Lassak on behalf of Crus et Domaines de France, a tasting which featured many other wines from both the Left and Right Banks.

As usual, wines in bold, I liked in particular. If red and bold, even more. If underlined, too, then a potential wine nirvana.

RIGHT BANK

Fronsac: A less heralded appellation (that deserves more heralding) did very well in 2019. 

Château Dalem –  This estate is going places and prices have not caught up. The blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc exudes rich, dark juicy plum fruit with touches of violet and oak derived spice. Lovely nuanced fruit, but on the darker side, blackberries and some black ripe cherry. Tasted after the Bordeaux AOCs and a noticeable step up. Tannin somewhat foreboding on the finish but aging before bottling will soften things. A wine to buy and hold for another 15 years. Recently expanded to 40 hectares of vines with HVE3 eco certification, the underground barrel aging cellar controls temperature and hygrometry and I want to visit their panoramic tasting terrace. Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June. 92-93

Château La Dauphine* – Sample was taken on 12 June, so three days ago. Rather bright forest strawberry notes. Not as dark fruit as above. The wine is indeed bright and ripe, a very lovely Dauphine, with lift and energy and fruit ripeness that balances the high alcohol of the vintage very nicely. Aging in 30% new oak. There is greater elegance here than Dalem. Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June. 92-93+

Château Fontenil – Floral and bright on the nose. Red fruit. The lift is noticeable and so is a certain crackling red fruit crunch, nonetheless layered with smooth tannin. Some high tone to the wine, which will come together with barrel aging. A hint of oak. One of my best tasting experiences with this estate! Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June. 91-93

Château de la Rivière* – After an off sample back in the summer, this autumn thank you to the estate for sending me a superb wine in the making. Since 2019, Thomas Dô Chi Nam has been working as technical director and has I would guess contributed to more refinement in the winemaking, as he did so for many years at Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. Indeed, that is what impresses me so much about this wine in this barrel sample this vintage. It was solar, yes, but somehow you get a sense of floral freshness, through to a long and lifting aromatic finish. Yes, there is sumptuous ripe plum fruit, to be sure! As there should be. But this wine stands apart for its refined elegance. Excellent integration of oak tannins, and lovely silky grape tannins. Bravo! Tasted in Strasbourg. 92-94

Château Les Trois Croix* – This has a freshness to it, as well, a certain “zing” which appeals to me. Richness, too. This is one of my favorites among the Fronsacs. Wait for barrel aging to “fill it out” and you will have depth and zing. This was actually drawn on the same day, so you have immediate freshness. Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June. 92-93+.

Château La Veille Curé – This comes across a bit hard, but I wonder if we have a sample issue, as the wine usually is much richer and opulent. Question mark. Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June.

Château Villars – This has depth and opulence on the nose. There is a crushed mint thing going with the 11% Cabernet Franc. I like the juiciness of this wine. Nicely done. Long and smooth and certainly fresh as well as rich. And impressive staying power as sample was drawn four days earlier, on 11 June. Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June. 92-93

Pomerol: Many big stars lacking from this worthy appellation, but positive Pomerol press is well deserved!

Château Beauregard – As ever this estate does well year in, year out. It exudes both depth and breadth, ripe and succulent red and black fruit, fine balance and tension. Long finish. An overall lovely wine, and for $50 a bottle as a futures item (add another $10 for taxes, depending on where you are), and it gets a bit pricey, but a success for the vintage. Crus et Domaines de France. 93-94+

Château Le Bon Pasteur – A bit of tightness on the finish, maybe? Probably just needs to “fill out” in barrel. But for now, a lovely barrel sample indeed, with freshness. Yes, freshness! And there is a certain appealing succulence and smooth palate. Ripe fruit, bien entendu. Nice job. Crus et Domaines de France. 93-94

Affordable and excellent quality. Yes, in Pomerol.

Château Bourgneuf – The best of the Pomerols tasted at the Grande Cercle. Very elegant and refined. Lacks the depth of a great Pomerol, if we wish to compare with, say, Vieux Château Certan or La Conseillante, but it also comes with a far friendlier price tag. Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June. 91-93+

Clos l’Eglise – One of my favorite Pomerols! What gorgeous ripe fruit aromas that invited further pleasurable sniffing. Sure, there is a slightly “decadent” aspect but in a positive manner, as the palate is broad and sap filled, so the overall impression is one of inviting sumptuousness without being flabby. Excellent! Crus et Domaines de France tasting. 94-96

Candidate for wine of the vintage

Château La Conseillante* – A superb barrel sample. Such elegance, with gorgeous floral aromatics serving as a prelude to much depth on the palate, fine tannic grain and a palate that has many layers and nuances. It is very deep and broad but far more subtle in its opulence than any other Pomerol I tried so far, and that does not include Petrus or Le Pin or Vieux Château Certan or Evangile or other top guns. Still, as far as top guns go, this is marvelous! Crus et Domaines de France tasting. 96-98

Château Le Clémence – This 2.8 hectare vineyard yields only 8,000 bottles. The blend is about 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc. I like the floral aspect on the nose. The palate is rounded but with elegance, too. A supple wine. You get warmth from the vintage, but some bright fruit on the finish, too. And 100% new oak? Nicely integrated. Bravo. Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June. 90-92+

Château Feytit Clinet – A tad metallic and I am wondering when the sample was drawn. Nonetheless, shows much promise if you can account for a slightly old sample. Fellow taster did not find it oxidized but a bit tired, and maybe too much oak? It is OK. “A modern wine”, he remarked. Note reserved. Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June.

Château Gazin –  Could this have been a sample issue? There was a sense of extraction that I got, recalling vintages like 2009 and 2010, which I feel were a bit heavy handed at this estate, as compared to, say, 2015 or 2016. There is much ripe fruit and the tannin is impressive, but I am not as excited by this particular sample. Need to revisit, note reserved. Crus et Domaines de France tasting.

Château Maillet – Benefitting since the 2014 vintage from the talented advice of Hubert de Boüard de Laforest, co-owner of Château Angelus in Saint Émilion, the estate also renovated its cellars. Although the wine is found in a non ECO friendly oversize bottle, this barrel sample of 100% Merlot in 100% new oak proved supple with grip. It has aromatic depth and both ripe and bright fruit, albeit a somewhat heavy mid palate that does not match the great Pomerols. Depending on the price, it may be worth seeking out. Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June. 90-92

Château Mazeyres – A let down. I recognize the hard work into making this biodynamic and organic wine, and the careful and meticulous vision of Alain Moueix, but tasted twice with similar results: the barrel samples lacked opulence and came across a tad thin and with a touch green for the vintage. Could it have been two bad samples on two occasions? Note reserved. Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June and at the Crus et Domaines de France tasting.

Château Nenin – Interesting how this 2019 comes across a bit more reserved than the 2018, which had more exuberance. Still, the 2019 from barrel counts among the best experienced en primeur. This estate tends to be a bit closed in and rather Médoc like from barrel (and often from bottle) but in these last two vintages, one gets more Pomerol sumptuousness. Long finish. A fine job and – as you can see in the below video from a visit to the estate in August 2019 – representative Florent Genty’s hopes to have success this vintage have been met in barrel. Crus et Domaines de France tasting. 92-94+

Château Petit Village – The aromas are subtle, with floral and ripe fruit aspects. Indeed, a fascinating expression of much refinement, with impressive palate density and ripe fruit impressions as well as fine tannic grain, but it ends on a slightly austere note. Give it needed barrel aging to “fill out”, and this will turn out lovely. Crus et Domaines de France tasting. 93-95

Château La Pointe – While this estate lacks the density of, say, Beauregard, this is as “solid as ever” and represents a fine deal for anyone who seeks Pomerol opulence with some underlying grip and refinement. I like the freshness on the finish, too. Crus et Domaines de France tasting. 90-92+

Château Taillefer – Friendly and agreeable. Has some fine chocolate aspects, with ripe fruit. Smooth palate. Should be affordable. Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June. 89-91

Saint Emilion: A sprawling appellation, with variation in quality and style. The first part includes wines from the upper Premier Grand Cru Classé category, although many “stars” missing. 

Saint Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé B 

Château Beau Séjour Becot Saint Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé B – The overall impression is one of elegance and freshness. This has been the new style since talented wine consultant Thomas Duclos and his team took over from Michel Rolland and the freshness of the limestone terroir is coming out more than ever. It may been the warm temperature of the room, but I recall being a bit more excited by the 2018 from barrel. A healthy yield of 46 hectoliters per hectare, aging in 65% new oak.  The pH is 3.77. Tasted with German merchants Klaus Kneib and Anja Rossbach, we agreed that this is an excellent wine from 2019, with a long, pure, fruit driven finish. Crus et Domaines de France tasting. 93-95

I escaped from Strasbourg after the quarantine to attend a trade tasting in Germany of many 2019 Bordeaux, here with Klaus Kneib and Anja Rossbach.

Château Canon La Gafferlière Saint Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé B – Here the bottle temperature was fresh from a temperature controlled cellar, so ideal and what a difference! This is delicious and counts among the best en primeur I recall from this estate. Opulent and balanced, with loads of ripe and delectable fruit and balancing acidity, with a fine and long finish. Bravo! Crus et Domaines de France tasting. 94-96

Château La Gaffelière Saint Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé B – This estate has been improving its performance in the years since it renovated its vat room in 2013. A lovely expression of terroir (from vines grown on the slope and the foot of the hillside of Saint Emilion) blending about 75% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc. There is underlying power but above all the wine comes across racy and silky, accentuating finesse and elegance over tannic extraction. Aging in about 50% new oak. Crus et Domaines de France tasting. 93-95

Château La Mondotte Saint Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé B – Wow this is quite opulent and even if it tightens on the finish, the refined tannic grain impresses. In past vintages, I have preferred the Canon-La-Gaffelière but this estate (under same owners) has really come on strong in recent vintages. Indeed, I recall when owner Stephan Von Neipperg explained why he was refused permission to include La Mondotte in his Canon-La-Gaffelière, which is what he had wanted to do. Well, the 4.5-hectares of vines from this separate estate on the clay-limestone plateau east of Saint-Emilion, has since been ranked higher according to the alterable Saint Emilion ranking system. It is a “small gem” whose shallow, meagre soil induces excellent water regulation and is propitious to deep rooting. Fine natural drainage combined with outstanding sunshine make for early and complete ripening. La Mondotte has been certified organic since 2014. 94-96

Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé 

Château Corbin Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – Planted in one single block, the 13-hectare vineyard is situated in the northwest of the Saint-Emilion appellation, on the doorstep of Pomerol. As ever, lovely and refined Merlot, with a bit of power delivered in a fine, rounded manner. A touch of warmth on the finish. Still, an excellent showing from this consistent estate. A wine that delivers a great price/quality ratio! Crus et Domaines de France tasting. 92-94+

Grand Corbin d’Espagne Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – This has richness, but as in some other vintages, it comes across somewhat dominated by the oak derived tannin. Let us cross fingers for better integration over time. Note reserved for now. Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June.

Château Destieux Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – Somewhat drying tannins are a distraction here. Very marmalade at first and then… drying and hard. Not sure about this one, but if this is the end result, not really for lovers of freshness. Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June.

Château Fonroque Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – Two samples. The first gives off a bit too much of underripe fruit but the second exuded freshness and… ripeness, expressed in a smooth, nuanced palate with a sneaky, long finish. Certified organic since 2006 and biodynamic since 2008, the clay gives strength and depth while the limestone more wet stone aspects. Nice job by Alain Moueix and his team. Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June. 91-93+

Château Franc Mayne Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – Although this sample did not count among the most elegant or opulent, the wine exudes pleasant red and black cherry notes and plum. A juicy mid palate and a finish with lift that is clean and never drying. At this early stage, we sense more the tannic structure than the charm. The seven hectares of vines encompass three separate geographical zones: plateau, hillside, and base of hillside, so there is much potential here. Combining limestone, clay, sand and marl, the vineyard presents no less than five soil types. 90-93

Château Laroze Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – Floral nose, with brambly red fruit. A certain initial austerity to this wine sample on the palate, but with time in glass, richness of fruit and fine density revealed. An excellent wine that will benefit for sure from another three to five years in your cellar before opening. Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June. 92-94

The amiable and talented Guy Meslin of Château Laroze in Saint Emilion, where the Grand Cercle tastings were held in June 2020.

Château La Marzelle Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – This has juiciness to the fruit, albeit with a certain oak derived tannic rigidity. Needs some time to come together, but altogether promising. Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June. 89-92

Château de Pressac Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – The terroir shines through on this vintage: supple, fresh and rich. Just a bit of drying on the finish could be a concern, so I look forward to revisiting from bottle. 91-93 Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June.

Château Sansonnet Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – Indeed, a “larger scale” of excellent wine on the palate. The nose exudes limestone like freshness and time in glass yields crushed mint. Among the best (if not the best) of the Saint Emilions tasted at the Grand Cercle. However, there is a certain headiness coupled with too noticeable oak tannin, which time should resolve, with the terroir showing through. My only recommendation would be that the team perhaps pick a few days earlier and use less new oak to let the terroir sing even more clearly. Let us see how it comes out from bottle, hence the larger score range… Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June. 91-94

Château Soutard Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé* – For the price, a special coup de coeur. Lovely, frank and smooth expression all very clean and refined with a lifting finish. The terroir is undeniable and winemaking accentuates elegance over power. The estate has no less than 30 hectares in one piece in the heart of the limestone plateau, with soil depth of generally less than 30 centimetres. The majority of the vineyard benefits from clay-limestone outcrops. The classic formations we find are asteriated limestone, Castillon clay, calciferous molasse and recent colluvium. We are talking Merlot, which ripens well in this area, and does not need too much new oak, either, so the 60% new oak works for the 18 months aging. And this is worth noting: Chateau Soutard has in recent years come to the forefront of wine tourism, as it won the Gold – Best of Wine Tourism award in the Architecture and Landscapes category and received the National Wine Tourism Prize of 2012. Crus et Domaines de France tasting. 92-94+

Château Yon Figeac Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – Now I like the smoothness of this sample. Not a “great” wine (not enough for an underline red), but it certainly has a friendly approach integrating both richness and structure. Give it time in barrel and I think it will come together to be a very fine wine. Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June and at the Crus et Domaines de France tasting, with consistent notes. 91-93

Saint Emilion Grand Cru 

Château La Croizille Saint Emilion Grand Cru – I have had better examples of this wine as in this particular sample, the oak oak influence seems to mask the fruit too much. Maybe the sample was not optimal. Note reserved. Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June.

Château Fombrauge Saint Emilion Grand Cru – How interesting that this comes across more balanced and agreeable than the premium Magrez-Fombrauge. A less expensive wine but better, with a smooth texture, ripe fruit taste and freshness on the finish. Nearly 90% Merlot and aging 18 months in 45% new oak barrels, 45% one year-old barrels, 10% in cement tank.Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June. 91-93

Château Godeau Saint Emilion Grand Cru – Tasted after both Lynsolence and Rol Valentin, and my preference out of the three. Certainly less pretentious in terms of the oak regime and comes across rather succulent. Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June. 89-91

Château Laplagnotte-Bellevue Saint Emilion Grand Cru – It is a pity that the sample seemed just a bit oxidized. Otherwise, I would give this between 91-93 as I detected some succulence and balance between oak and fruit, and really a juiciness that appeals. Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June. Note reserved due to barrel sample question.

Château Lynsolence Saint Emilion Grand Cru – The care taken to make this wine is always impressive and the vines have an age between 38-45 years. I just wish they would use less than 100% new oak, for the 100% Merlot, as true to form, and as in previous in vintages, it comes across too oak driven. Not my style. Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June.

Château Magrez-Fombrauge Saint Emilion Grand Cru – Pricier than the regular Fombrauge, but laying it on (oak) thick. OK, some brightness on the finish, but it comes across more as heavy handed jam. If you like the style, you go ga-ga. A blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Franc, aging 18 months in new oak barrels and in three terracotta jars of 200, 300 and 450 liters. Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June. 88-90

Château Pindefleurs Saint Emilion Grand Cru – One should admire the care taken in the vineyard and in the vat room for this 18-hectare vineyard. Merlot represents 90% of the estate, and while this barrel sample exuded some fine floral aspects with tasty oak derived spice aromatically, the palate comes across just a tad too oak driven and and somewhat drying on the finish. Could it have been the sample? Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June.

Château Rol Valentin Saint Emilion Grand Cru – Starts out fine, with a glossy fruit and very ripe too. But what detracts is the somewhat drying tannin on the finish, even if it starts out better than other wines of this more “modern style”. Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June.

Château Soutard-Cadet Saint Emilion Grand Cru – Located just a short walk from the medieval town of Saint-Emilion, this estate has but 2.5 hectares of clayey limestone soils over beds of asteriated limestone, a deposit of fossils characteristic of the great Saint-Emilion terroirs. Old Merlot vines are complemented by a few rows of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, and the result is quite appealing in terms of intensity: Quite a bit of depth to this wine even if just a tad hot on the finish. Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June. 89-91

LEFT BANK 

Médoc/Haut Médoc/Moulis/Listrac : You get value here and especially one top wine sticks out in 2019, Château Sociando Mallet, but that shouldn’t be a surprise 😁

You can consult many Cru Bourgeois wine reviews, here, but I also tasted some of the above appellations at the Grand Cercle and Groupe GCF tastings, with the following worthy wines to keep in mind:

Château La Cardonne AOC Médoc – This estate apparently sits on highest plateau of the Médoc and the wine in 2019 has a supple nature, with clean expressions of ripe fruit and a certain pleasing succulence. The tannins are a bit firm but with some time in bottle, it should be satisfying. Not bad! 88-90 Tasted at the Grand Cercle.

Château Dutruch Grand Poujeaux AOC Moulis – I like the ripe fruit and pleasingly round palate combined with fine tannic grain. 89-91 Tasted at the Grand Cercle.

Château de Lamarque AOC Haut Médoc As lovely as ever, but it gets in 2019 some stiff competition from the Cru Bourgeois tasting. Always a good purchase however. Tasted at Groupe GCF on 8 July. 91-93

Château Lanessan AOC Haut Médoc – Already the nose suggests more breed than many other wines I was tasting in this appellation at the Grand Cercle. It exudes blueberry fruit and a cool aspect with savory plum notes. The palate is supple yet with structure: like a smoother version of the La Cardonne. Finish is tannic, but this is normal. It needs about 7 or 10 years of aging to be fully ready. 91-93+

Château Les Grands Chênes AOC Médoc – The bottle is hardly eco-friendly, and announces that their first harvest was in 1880, but the wine comes across a bit too hard and heavy. Have had better examples of this. 87-89 Tasted at the Grand Cercle.

Château Poujeaux AOC Moulis – A fine expression of ripeness with excellent tannic structure. Very promising wine. Tasted at Groupe GCF on 8 July. 91-93

As sometimes happens, this estate can punch with the best of them. 2019 is a buy, buy, buy vintage!

Château Sociando Mallet AOC Haut Médoc* – A coup de coeur! Buy this. It comes across balanced, elegant and opulent. One of the best Sociando Mallets I have tried en primeur. No need for futures buying, but should be great off the shelf. I look forward to a vertical of this estate next time I am in Bordeaux. Crus et Domaines de France tasting. 93-95

Château Villegeorge AOC Haut Médoc – Sample drawn on 11 June, so certainly a fresher sample and pretty darn tasty. It has fruit and richness and the tannic structure for a longer haul. Nice! 89-91 Tasted at the Grand Cercle.


Saint Estèphe: Montrose in 2019 is better than Montrose in 2018, and other tales. 

Chateau La Haye – You have some ripe fruit and there is body to this wine, but it seems to lack charm: a straightforward wine but I wish there were more nuance and richness. Note reserved. Let’s see how it tastes from bottle. Tasted at the Grand Cercle.

Château Lafon Rochet – A solid performance from this always reliable estate. Crus et Domaines de France tasting. 91-93

Château Lilian Ladouys – Similar experience to positive impressions when tasted along with other Cru Bourgeois wines. Rich, opulent nose. Strawberry and plum fruit, la baie du mur, with smooth and juicy texture. Really good stuff, not among the most potentially complex, but very good. There is a tannic edge to this that reflects the image of Saint Estèphe and that is a good sign. Juicy finish. Maybe not as “complete” as Charmail or quite as nuanced as Cambon. Crus et Domaines de France tasting. 90-92

Many thanks to both Château Montrose Communications Director Hélène Brochet and Winemaking Director Vincent Decup for the 2018-2019 comparison!

Château Montrose* – Another candidate for wine of the vintage. Communications director Hélène Brochet welcomed me to the estate. We both donned masks. Also there was winemaking director Vincent Decup. They were kind to open as well the 2018, which fascinated me from barrel. Indeed, the 2018 at this stage exudes a subtle nose, while the palate is quite rich and broad. I do feel some heat, and, yet, like a trapeze act, it manages to balance things. Aging in 65% new oak. I was wondering if they could maybe have done with a bit less new oak in 2018. I would think that the high alcohol of the vintage could be extracting more of the oak than necessary, but this is just an impression at this stage. Toasting, by the way, is middle to middle-light, or with vapor-made barrels. They had to harvest very early, to maintain freshness, and they had to pick more quickly, so “we adapted to the harvest,” Deculp said. He is interested in amphorae, as they oxidize, but do not include oak flavor. They will start to experiment next year. While the 2018 is exuberant, puissant, large and long, the 2019 is more classic, albeit with certain flamboyance, too. Alcohol is lower than last year, at 14.45% as opposed to 14.8%, although the pH at 3.7 is about the same as 2018. But the impression in 2019 is more floral, slightly cooler fruit, even somewhat croquant and, dare I say, serious. Indeed, the cooler evenings of August lent more energy and vivacity to this vintage. I also found the oak integration to be superior and, at this (very early) stage, I prefer the 2019. Both tasted in June 2020 at the estate. Blends 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. A great wine in the making indeed. While the 2018 gets 95 points, the 2019 should be between 96-98 once in bottle. Tasted at the château.

I dig the new label for Dame de Montrose.

Dame de Montrose – Yet again, a second wine that rivals many first wines in Bordeaux. I like the succulent ripe fruit, at this barrel sample more Merlot driven ripe, even though Cabernet Sauvignon makes up nearly half the blend. At 14.41 alcohol and a pH of of 3.74, you get opulence but framed by red brambly fruit, too. A bit of tannin hits on the finish, but let it age. 30% new oak. Tasted in June at the estate. 92-93+

Château Phélan Ségur – Dark ripe fruit aromas with a hint of cedar elegance. Impressive palate density, with both structure and elegance, and the best of the Saint Estèphe that I tasted at the Crus et Domaines de France tasting. Bravo! 93-95

Château Sérilhan – A Cru Bourgeois Supérieur that has some pleasing fruit forward aspects but then clamps down on the finish with tannins coming across almost over rigid. Not sure! Give it time in to “resolve” and let’s taste again from bottle. For now… 87-89 Tasted at the Grand Cercle.

Château Tronquoy Lalande – As discussed while at the estate, August was hot, but not like in 2003. It was hot in July, too, but evenings were fresh, at least in August. End of July rain helped to maintain freshness. Aromas of freshness and white flower enchant the taster, but the the palate comes across more powerful than expected. Strong and tense. Tendu as one would say in French14.5% alcohol and pH 3.78, acidity 3.25. Tasted in June at the estate. 92-94 

Margaux: Some excellent values this vintage! 

Château Brane Cantenac* – The top of the pops among the Margaux I tasted in Wiesbaden last month. Gorgeous aromatics, perfumed and floral, with distinct violet notes, the palate at once refined and linear but with impressive mid palate density. Long finish. In a word: Margaux! Crus et Domaines de France tasting. 93-95+

Château Cantenac Brown – Larger scaled in some ways than the Brane, tasted alongside, and one cannot but admire the depth and focus, too! I just do not think it is quite as elegant as the Brane, but it counts as a very strong showing for the appellation. Crus et Domaines de France tasting. 93-95

Château Dauzac – Quite plump and succulent and less oaky than in some years when one notices more vanilla. Basically, a successful Dauzac! Crus et Domaines de France tasting. 91-93

Château d’Issan* – Here we have a Margaux that comes across a bit more Pauillac like, coiled in. But an undeniable high quality of tannin, very smooth. Very high potential. Looking forward to revisiting again. Along with the Brane Cantenac, the strongest showing among the Margaux that I tasted from barrel. Crus et Domaines de France tasting. 93-95+

Château La Tour de Bessan – This has a very friendly nose, and I like its ripe fruit profile. 89-91 Tasted at the Grand Cercle

Château Marquis d’Alesme – A very good showing from this estate. Lovely nose, floral and elegant, with some toast from the oak. A balanced palate. Crus et Domaines de France tasting. 92-94

Château Prieure Lichine – An undeniably attractive floral aroma. Smooth palate albeit a tad warm – could it have been the room temperature? In any case, a fine showing from this estate. Crus et Domaines de France tasting. 92-94

Château Rauzan Gassies – This estate is quietly making better wines in recent vintages, and here another example: quite elegant and ripe in expression with a red fruit freshness. Nice job. Crus et Domaines de France tasting. 91-93

Pauillac: The Comtesse is super impressive in 2019, and other tales. 

Pauillac includes a strong candidate for overall wine of the vintage, and do add extra points for greater affordability than any of the First Growths… can you guess which one? Never mind, just look at the video 😁.

Château d’Armailhac – The sample crackles with red fruit, floral aromatics and verve, with medium plus body and a long finish. A smooth palate, if not as dense as the superb 2016 vintage, or as long. The tannins are present but a raspberry freshness dominates on the rather cool finish. One senses also cassis from the dominating Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend, because the grape was particularly successful, says director Philippe Dhalluin. Still, 27% Merlot, old vines of Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot, clocking in at 13.7% alcohol (Merlot bringing up the percentage). Although the Merlots were “the best since the 2010 vintage” hydric stress may have been a factor in deciding to have more Cabernet Sauvignon, which handled that stress better. “We were lucky to have September rain, he said. A few more weeks in barrel made the wines a bit more integrated. Seven months in barrel. Blending very early. End of November already put in barrel as blended. Fruit croquant. The 2019 vintage will be the last one made in the old cellar space. The estate is in the midst of reconstruction with a new aging cellar, which should be ready next year. “We would have the possibility to make a second wine,” Dhalluin said. 91-93+ Tasted in Strasbourg with director Philippe Dhalluin via video link.

Château Bellegrave – A tightly knit wine that has character, with floral and fruit aspects as well as fine tannic grip. 90-92 Tasted at the Grand Cercle.

Château Clerc Milon – The 72% Cabernet Sauvignon dominates here and the initial tasting once you get past the cedar and cassis on the nose is a “manly” feel to the palate bordering on austerity, conjuring initial images of … 1986. But the benefit of having a half bottle sample delivered to your door is that the wine can be re-tasted over a few days, and it indeed opened up. Fine grained, smooth tannin and dark ripe fruit with density on the palate impress. Dhalluin thinks that it would need about “five or six years” in the cellar before being “truly” ready. It comes across however less complex and with less juicy opulence than the 2016 at its time from barrel. In discussing with Dhalluin in real time online, it seems to have some 2015 style ripeness, some 2009 succulence, which comes after the second day, and some 2010 density. And, sure, there is some 2016 freshness, too. Could it be like a modern day 2005? “We work today with much more precision,” Dhalluin says, explaining that the massale selection only recently has borne fruit for the wine, and parcel-by-parcel selection is more precise. 93-95 Tasted in Strasbourg with director Philippe Dhalluin via video link.

The 2016 is likely better, but go and get yourself some 2019, because GPL has priced it very fairly.

Château Grand Puy Lacoste* – Highest alcohol ever for this estate, at 14.3% (last year was 14.2%). “We had Cabernet Sauvignons with a natural alcohol level harvested at 13.4% and even up to 13.6%”, remarked Emeline Borie. And even though acidities are about the same as last year, the freshness balances out the alcohol. The wine is sumptuous opulent, with black and juicy cherry, cassis and graphite. Its underlying power is nicely ensconced  in an elegance expression of fine grained tannin. The blend of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon and 17% Merlot is aging in 75% new oak. I really liked this wine, but was more excited tasting en primeur with the 2016 vintage, as you can read my impressions back in 2017 here. So much so, that I bought six bottles of the 2016 not long after this tasting. Still, an excellent wine in the making and that does not surprise me. Furthermore, in terms of pricing, GPL was especially impressive as its opening 2019 price is – drum roll please – two euros less expensive than in 2005. So only 38 euros ex-château. 93-95 Tasted at the estate in June.

Fine line up, tasted at home in Strasbourg.

Château Mouton Rothschild* – Just over half of the harvest was used to make the grand vin (33% for Petit Mouton). As expected, a Cabernet vintage with 90% Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend, although that is not the highest proportion ever. The 2010 for example was 93%. Two hectares of old vine Merlot grown on stony hot soils – the “La Belle de Loubeyres” parcel – yielded very high quality Merlot but not quite good enough for the first wine (partly explains why the 2019 Petit Mouton is so utterly succulent). Aging in 100% new oak, the wine is fresh and long, with bright expressions of black cherry and plum. The 2005 also had this aspect en primeur as we both recalled. And such impressive density. The tannin – no more than 85 on the tannins index – is refined and classy. “It was not so easy a vintage as we had so much sun, and we have so many thick gravels, and very hot terrain, so we could have lots of ripeness, even overripeness,” Dhalluin recalled. “In the old times, we would harvest a bit late,” he said, but starting with 2015, Dhalliun started to accelerate the harvest by two days in vintages like this. So there is a freshness to the vintage and over three days, the wine opens up with such impressive length, as compared to the Petit Mouton. Lovely wine! 96-98+

Petit Mouton* (2nd wine of Château Mouton Rothschild) – One of the best experiences I can recall of trying this from barrel. The 32% Merlot lends such opulence and indeed includes the two hectares of vines from a parcel that normally goes into the first wine, so you have “an extra dimension” this year. Just pouring the wine in glass is like sensing perfume in the room. “Un vrai Petit Mouton, avec des fruit noirs de cérises murs, très presents”, Dhalluin commented with enthusiasm, and I agree. Since I was driving to Paris just two days later, I brought it to a friend’s and we all marveled at its succulence. The finish is marked by aromatic crushed herbs that make it interesting. The alcohol touches 14% but is actually 13.9%.  And I find the balance better than last year’s version. OK, the tannic grain is not as fine as that of Mouton and the wine is of course not as long, but the exuberance is great, and it reminds me of the up front fruit of the 2012, albeit with more mid palate depth. Dhalluin acknowledged this as a good comparison: “In 2012, we pushed the maturity to get maximum ripenes and this 2019 comes across that way, too”. 93-95

Château Pedesclaux – I like the ripe fruit and the density, and it seems to come across just a bit heady, but that could be due to the temperature of the tasting room. Tasted just after the impressive Château Pichon Longueville Baron, and not as dense or as long, but also much less expensive 😉. 92-94 At the Crus et Domaines de France tasting.

Château Pichon Longueville Baron – Can you pronounce lead pencil? So full of graphite, I am ready to open a lead pencil factory. The aromatics so deep, accentuated by pristine expressions of dark red fruit. It fits the mold of a “serious Pauillac” that reflects the older style of Château Latour: a very good thing. Extremely fine, smooth tannins, all in very good balance, with (very) full body and impressive palate density leading to a (very) long finish. The “oohs” and “aahs” in the tasting room, even with social distancing and masks (after sipping) were audible. Crus et Domaines de France tasting. 95-97

Candidate for wine of the vintage: at a lower price, It “dances with the big boys” to quote David Bowie.

Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande* – Candidate for wine of the vintage, as it equals the level of the great Mouton Rothschild but in a different style of quintessential elegance. Yet again a veritable Super Second, at the level of a First. What beguiling aromas of rose petal, rose stem, cedar, pencil lead, cassis! “C’est une belle réussite”, remarks director Nicolas Glumineau. And the 14.2% alcohol is very well integrated; indeed, I was thinking in terms of 13.5%. The pH clocks in at a healthy 3.7 for this blend of 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc. It is aging in 60% new oak and the estate has been working with some larger 300-liter barrels since 2018, to ensure “better rapport” with oxygen. Glumineau explains how they are increasing parcels under an organic regime. As for 2019, he echoes others about the heat stress, especially recalling early July: “We saw yellowing leaves, and I was unsure”… He was thinking of 2003 so they worked the vines so as to have less evaporation. Thankfully in mid July 32mm of rain fell with about that same amount in mid August, which helped as well: “These two rains proved essential”.  Even if the Merlots were more heterogenous, the best Merlots were great. Cellar master Xavier Pallu, who has been with the estate since 1998, said that he had never seen such fine Merlot. The Cabernets were more homogenous and “grand and racy”. The wine is grand. For Glumineau, who had been at Château Montrose in 2010, the vintage “reaches the level of Montrose 2010”.  I bought futures. Tasted both at the estate and at home in Strasbourg. 96-98+

Reserve de la Comtesse* – Sweet herb, sweet mint, ripe and juicy black plum, rose petals: a delectable and sappy (not in the negative sense) palate, full-bodied and with lift and freshness. Long finish. As I taste 2019 Bordeaux, I find greater freshness and balance – on average – compared to 2018. And this is just the “second wine” of the mighty Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, and (from barrel, drawn on 24 June and tasted in early July), it is absolutely delicious! 92-95 

Saint Julien: The homogenous high quality from Saint Julien is almost boring, but buy the wines you should! 😉 

Château Beychevelle – This estate continues to maintain a very high standard, and it is a good follow up to the impressive 2018, which I had tasted on location in Bordeaux. What impressed me most here was a bit more Pauillac like power and grip, although it could have been the sample. The combination of fresh red and black fruits on the palate, with oyster shell freshness on the long finish is a very good sign. 93-95 Crus et Domaines de France tasting

Clos du Marquis* – Gorgeous aromas of very bright red fruit and pencil lead lead to a palate all in finesse, which conveys density and elegance. One of the best I can recall from barrel, the blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot and 7% Cabernet Franc clocks in fairly high at 14.1% alcohol, but a rather low pH of 3.6 (total acidity of 3.4 grams per liter) provides refreshing balance. IPT is 79. A very successful wine here, so bravo! 93-95 Crus et Domaines de France tasting

Château du Glana – A bit metallic, on the nose, but the palate has plenty of structure and fruit. Quite a nice wine, in fact. I bet this will reward three to five years of cellaring. 91-93 Tasted at the Grand Cercle on 15 June.

Château Gloria – As ever a wine that constitutes a bargain, with a straightforward appeal in this vintage, fine tannin and solid overall. Not the most “amazing” barrel sample I have had from this estate but very good. 91-93 Crus et Domaines de France tasting

Château Lagrange* – I love the pure, primary fruit expression from this estate in this vintage and accolades from many critics are well deserved, as the wine conveys both clean ripe fruit and wonderful density, with such a vivid expression of fruit, like biting into the skin of a grape, wonderful tannic extract, depth and impressive length. I cannot recall a more exciting tasting from barrel for Lagrange. Bravo! 93-96 Crus et Domaines de France tasting

Château Langoa Barton – It is hard to resist the pure and focused expressions of fruit and the floral bouquet reflecting much freshness. In recent years, the wine here has gotten better and more opulent in expression, and 2019 is no exception. Bravo! 92-94+ Crus et Domaines de France tasting

Château Léoville Barton – It is often the case that the “bigger brother” to Langoa – the second growth of Léoville Barton – is more “imposing” in terms of tannin from barrel, as it proves again to be the case in 2019, but you get greater density and depth overall … and a great wine in the making, even if the tannins from barrel seem somewhat tight. 93-96 Crus et Domaines de France tasting

Graves and Pessac-Léognan: Fine wines at multiple price points in red and white 

Much of these I tasted at the Wiesbaden event organized by the Groupe GCF on 8 July. But I also visited both Château La Louvière and Domaine de Chevalier, so here goes:

Visit at Domaine de Chevalier

Owner Olivier Bernard said that 2019 proved a rare occasion in that he welcomed rains during the harvest. July was very hot and dry. Even if some rain fell at the end of July, “we were indeed twice saved by the rain” as much needed rain again fell at the end of September. As others note, thankfully August was “normal” and not too hot, with cooler nights as compared to 2018, so that the whites for example have “more tension” in 2019, he said: Something I noticed in tasting his white wines. “But even the Cabernets were suffering, which he had never seen before,” Bernard stressed. They were not quite ripe by 26 September. “We sensed that they needed rain, as they were dry and raisiny”, he said. The rain came. And the harvest ended on 11 October.

The red

Domaine de Chevalier* – Same blend as in 2018, with 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot, but lower alcohol and a bit more elegant than the preceding vintage, which was already successful. The attack is dark cherry and blackberry, with savory tannin and some sea salt aspects that make the wine (13.2% alcohol) fresh and opulent. A long finish that has some cedar and wet stone freshness. “Even if a bit less powerful than 2016,” Bernard stresses that the level of precision has “improved since that vintage”. He says that 2019 has “a bit of 2015”, as well, but I sense greater freshness and a better vintage than the 2015. It is full degree less alcohol than the 2018.  94-96 Consistent notes, tasted at Groupe GCF on 8 July and at the estate in June.

Dramatic clouds over Domaine de Chevalier

The white(s)

I tasted several whites with Olivier Bernard and he stressed that “too much heat kills the whites, and thank goodness, we had a normal month of August, with fresh evenings.” That was a key aspect to the 2019 vintage. With harvesting in the morning, as usual, he stressed.

Domaine de Chevalier Blanc – 2019 was another solar vintage following up on 2018, and again not as successful generally speaking as, say, 2017. But we are talking about an estate that excels in warmer vintages and here no exception. Already the Domaine de Chevalier Blanc was top of the pops last year among dry white Bordeaux. And 2019 follows in the same vein, bursting with aromas of white pepper, eglantine, acacia and sweet herbs. In a word: opulence. “In 2019 we had ripeness, but not as much a danger of over ripeness as in 2018,” Bernard explains. Indeed, the cooler August nights made the difference and although “we have a similar alcohol level as in 2018, the 2019 has a bit more acidity”, he said. “It was not an easy vintage as July was too hot, and September was hot, so it was not normal.” I will err on the side of exuberance and give this great white a wide score range, as it has potential to reach “96”, but let us see from bottle! 93-96 Tasted at the estate in June.

Also worth mentioning is how tasty his Clos des Lunes was, with a majority of Semillon 70% and then 30% Sauvignon Blanc. Round and elegant with freshness.

I also liked Domaine de la Solitude, which at 14% alcohol came across nicely balanced, blending 60% Sauvignon Blanc and 40% Semillon. Green apple, lime and fresh, peach white. This has energy and power. Served at a just cool enough temperature, you could sense some warmth on the palate, but striking a balance here quite nicely. Lilac and white flower, too, on the finish. Bernard said that the vines comes from a cooler terroir so you get the needed tension in a warm vintage. This is worth seeking out!

Finally, speaking of warm vintages, Olivier and his wife Anne invited me to dinner, for which he served the exquisite Domaine de Chevalier 1990 red, which was so fresh, ripe and with impressive dry extract. Made from “another era”, less selective and less precise viticulture, it didn’t matter at all, as the wine was simply delicious, accompanying the delectable Blanquette de Veau perfectly. Long finish. For anyone wondering about 1990, it is alive and kicking, on a wonderful plateau. Thanks to Domaine de Chevalier for this kind invitation.

More Pessac-Léognan and Graves : the reds 

Château de Cruzeau – The sample was drawn recently when I tasted it, exuding fresh fruit. One of the better samples here of wine, and it is both supple and substantial in a “Graves” kind of way. That is to say, not foreboding like Pauillac but ripe and smooth. Truly fine juice! 89-91 Tasted at the Grand Cercle

Château Malartic Lagravière* – Pristine fresh red and black fruit aromas precede a palate smooth and dense, very fruit driven but with a cool blue fruit aspect on the long finish. This is the first vintage since the estate hired the talented wine consultant Eric Boissenot, highlighting greater elegance in style, which is very welcome. A blend of nearly 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, just over 41% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc, the wine is aging in 65% new French oak. Furthermore, the excellent quality from this producer is getting increasingly noticed by merchants worldwide for its price/quality ratio (just over $30 per bottle in the U.S.), so buy it while that lasts. 😉 93-95 Crus et Domaines de France tasting

Chateau Olivier – A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (55%), Merlot (41%) and Petit Verdot (4%) the wine gives off subtle aromas of cedar and ripe plum, with a hint of violet. The attack is refined and rather soft, with the initial impression of a structured and somewhat “coiled in” palate, but time in glass reveals ripe red and black fruit richness. Needed some coaxing but a promising wine! 92-94 Tasted at Groupe GCF on 8 July

Lovely pair of red wines from Pessac-Léognan as tasted at the Grand Cercle

Château Pape Clément – The Pape Clément is incredibly opulent and indeed juicy on the mid palate, and several tasters picked it as the best wine of the Pessac-Léognans at the trade tasting. Aging in 90% new oak, and it does come across that way, with some slightly drying oak-derived tannins that bugged me on the otherwise long finish. If they would only go to 60% new oak, I think the terroir and the fruit would show better, but the estate has many buyers who love the style, so who am I to argue? What fun it was to compare with Domaine de Chevalier, which was also featured at the trade tasting in Germany (I had tasted it at the estate one month beforehand). I opt more for the fresher, more refined approach of the Domaine de Chevalier. Two great wines, two very different styles : Pessac-Léognan has it all for you! 92-94 Tasted at Crus et Domaines de France.

Château de Rochemorin Pessac-Léognan AOC – This was also draw recently with aromas of crushed mint and red fruit. The palate has a bit more austerity than the above wine, but perhaps more density and length. While not as immediately accessible, the substance is greater, as one senses indeed a longer finish. 90-92 Tasted at the Grand Cercle

Château de Rouillac Pessac-Léognan AOC – Roughly half and half Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, this estate is too often under the radar but making excellent wines. In 2019, the sample is aromatically expressive with red and black fruits, leading to a smooth texture on the palate, with bright red, even crackling, fruit, leading to a medium plus finish with lift. There is also good palate density.  Aging in oak, one-third of which is new. Fine wine, very good price! 91-93 Tasted at the Grand Cercle

More Pessac-Léognan and Graves : the whites 

Château Carbonnieux Pessac-Léognan AOC – Bravo for the crispy and fresh citrus and white stone fruit aromas and flavors, which makes this wine very appealing. The palate has energy and mid palate density but I just kept thinking of finding some oysters to enjoy with it, because it conveyed an oyster seashell freshness on the medium+ finish. 92-94 Crus et Domaines de France tasting.

Château Crabitey Graves AOC – When tasted this summer, this blend of 70% Sauvignon and 30% Semillon had been already bottled. This is a tart wine, but it has character, and I would enjoy it with oysters to be sure. There is acidity and richness that are a tad disjointed but chalk that up to the recent bottling. And be sure it has brightness and energy! 89-91 Tasted at the Grand Cercle

Château de Cruzeau Pessac-Léognan AOC – Certainly more nuanced than the Graves wines before, with a certain sheen that was lacking. Some varietal character to be sure, but the best white so far. 90-92 Tasted at the Grand Cercle

Château Larrivet Haut Brion Pessac-Léognan AOC – The aromas blend citrus and delicate oak derived notes. In the mouth, the wine is both rich and smooth; like the balance here, and you can sense the oak (100% new oak) but it is integrated. A thicker palate texture than, say, Carbonnieux, but I caught myself thinking of lobster with butter and lemon to enjoy with this wine. 91-93+ Crus et Domaines de France tasting.

Château Malartic-Lagravière Pessac-Léognan AOC – A very fine white indeed, combining veritable elegance with orange rind freshness delivered with mid-palate opulence. The finish is long and smooth. Starting from the 2019 vintage, vinification consultancy has been handed to Eric Boissenot, who is bringing more elegance to the wine. And, another bargain alert, for super fine dry white Bordeaux, at under €40 in Europe. 93-95 Crus et Domaines de France tasting.

Château Pape-Clément Pessac-Léognan AOC – While I can really dig this estate in cooler vintages like 2014 (as you can read here), it can come across a bit more heavy handed in warmer vintages like 2015. 2019 is not as hot as 2018 and it shows. This blend of 46% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Semillon and 14% Sauvignon Gris does have tropical aromas and flavors, from guava and passion fruit to mango and touches of pineapple: a rich and fun nose accentuated by vanilla as coming from the oak used, which seems (to me at least) a bit over done. The palate however comes across more white stone fruit, nectarine and yellow peach, quite robust and with more balancing acidity than one may expect.  Overall, a nice job indeed! I was enthusiastic about this wine. 92-94+ Crus et Domaines de France tasting.

Château Saint Robert Poncet-Deville Graves AOC – Some reduction on the nose. Matchstick. The palate has more verve. It is lively enough. But does not match the freshness of, say, Crabitey as a fine white Graves. 88-90 Tasted at the Grand Cercle

Château de Rouillac Pessac-Léognan AOC – This was one of my favorite dry white from the tasting at the Grand Cercle. A touch rich, but with balancing acidity and smooth texture. Ripe grapefruit, white peach, lime. Lovely wine! 91-93 Tasted at the Grand Cercle.

Sauternes/Barsac: Looks like a great year, with some showstoppers 

Château Bastor Lamontagne AOC Sauternes – Another year, another fine Sauternes from this estate! You cannot go wrong for the competitive price: it is suave, it is spicy and it has ripe fruit and a finely textured palate. 91-93 Crus et Domaines de France tasting.

Château Doisy-Daene AOC Barsac* – Reflecting a solar vintage, the freshness of this Barsac of 100% Sauvignon Blanc provides perfect balance. A wine that exudes elegance and freshness, with gorgeous botrytis spice. An enveloping palate with suave texture, bursting with vivid fruit, and with freshness on the long finish. A superb wine to evolve with grace over the next 40 years. 94-96 Crus et Domaines de France tasting.

Château Haut Bergeron AOC Sauternes – This has a fresh pineapple aspect, with much brightness although lacks the depth and complexity from a top tier Sauternes. 88-90 Tasted at the Grand Cercle

Château Lafaurie Peyraguey AOC Sauternes – Blending 93% Semillon and the rest Sauvignon Blanc, I really love the combination of opulence and freshness from this estate in 2019, as if the small amount of the Sauvignon Blanc shines through for vibrancy. The wine is both racy and complex, with bitter orange jam and white stone fruit: pear and apricot galore with spicy botrytis derived notes. Ending with a succulent and refreshingly long finish. 93-95 Crus et Domaines de France tasting.

Superb Sauternes at Raymond-Lafon

Château Raymond Lafon* – What a lovely palate! This has contour, depth and complexity. The nose is a bit closed at this stage, but it rather explodes on the palate with such vivid white stone fruit, kiwi, mango and white pepper and tea. It constitutes one of the best ever experiences tasting this fine estate from barrel. Bravo! 94-96 Tasted at the Grand Cercle.

A lovely Suau from Sauternes-Barsac

Château Suduiraut AOC Sauternes Barsac – A sun kissed wine to be sure, and a success, combining aromatic intensity with floral elegance and spice. You get an almost roasted fruit aspect in the full on full bodied palate. Long finish. 92-94+ Crus et Domaines de France tasting.

Château Suau AOC Sauternes Barsac – Only 10,000 bottles produced this year, and it comes across both fresh and crisp as well as suave and rich with distinct sweet white peach and spice flavors. One of the best Suau barrel experiences I have had. Since 2015, Olivier Bernard has had a long term contract to manage the winemaking and vineyard work at Suau. Excellent! 91-93+ Tasted at Domaine de Chevalier.

Bordeaux and Côtes AOC: Unsung heroes? You bet!  

The Reds

Grand Vin de Reignac AOC Bordeaux Superieur* – Floral and fresh aromas, red crackling fruit. Even nice dark plum. Clearly a wine that punches above its appellation, with richness to the nose. To some extent, I can “sense” the alcohol and see how that would please some palates more, but the fruit is ripe and you get a veritable “mouthful”: a crowd pleaser. Among the top Bordeaux AOC reds and it has freshness on the finish. I did try as well the Balthus, but found it too heavy handed for my tastes. 91-93 Tasted at the Grand Cercle.

Château Fleur Haut Gaussens AOC Bordeaux Supérieur – I like the expression of ripe fruit on the nose and the palate comes across balanced, if on the heavier side. Somewhat edgy tannins. Somewhat drying on the finish. 86-88 Tasted at the Grand Cercle.

Château Penin Les Cailloux AOC Bordeaux Supérieur – Fresh red fruit nose. This again comes across a bit raw. A bit drying on finish, but bright red fruit also reassures. Let’s give it a wider from barrel point range, but I suspect that it should “come together” by bottling time. 87-90 Tasted at the Grand Cercle.

Château Réaut Cadillac AOC Côte de Bordeaux – This is 58% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. You have toasted notes suggesting oak influence. A frank expression with plum fruit and cherry. Quite fresh and appealing! There are rather firm, slightly raw tannins, but not astringent. This is promising. Always a solid Bordeaux and one to seek in 2019. Does it approach 14% alcohol? Will it be taxed? 89-91 Tasted at the Grand Cercle.

Carat of Réaut – This one aged 18 months in new oak, made from 80% Cabernet Sauvignon. Label says 14.5% alcohol! The nose is discrete which is not a bad thing. The palate has power indeed, but I feel more of the oak tannin here. Overall, it achieves a certain balance. Only time will tell if the wine absorbs the oak. But it does not dry on the finish. Just a bit hard tannin. Like a wall. Wait n See. 89-91 Tasted at the Grand Cercle.

An excellent value: don’t hesitate

Château Saint-Marie AOC Bordeaux Supérieur – For the price, you cannot go wrong with this blend of 72% Merlot and 28% Cabernet Sauvignon. Made from vines in the heart of Entre-Deux-Mers, the wine displays plum and blackberry fruit, with a touch of oak-derived spice. The palate is juicy and friendly and would grace a summer barbecue. A bit thinner than the Reignac, tasted after lunch. 89-91 Tasted at the Grand Cercle.

Château Lesparre (AOC Graves de Vayres) – Nice nose, has an almost floral aspect, freshness. Like the juicy lift on the palate. Somewhat attenuated finish however. Not bad. 88-90 Tasted at the Grand Cercle.

The dry whites 

In a later issue of Decanter, I critique scores of Bordeaux AOC whites. Generally speaking, 2019 is not a great vintage for white wines, given lower-than-average acidities. And yet, those estates with cooler terroirs and microclimates as well as estates that practiced wise canopy management and harvesting regimes did make some fine white wine.

Château Sainte Marie Entre Deux Mers Blanc* – For €7 a bottle retail, this first dry white tasted at the Grand Cercle is clearly a winner, with a lovely balance of verve and richness. Like its red counterpart, a very good showing here! A pleasing blend of 70% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Semillon and 5% Muscadelle. 89-91 Tasted at the Grand Cercle.

Château Penin Bordeaux Blanc – Nose is a bit sweet in terms of fruit. On the palate, too, you wonder if there is a bit of residual sugar. Note reserved. Tasted at the Grand Cercle.

Château Reignac Blanc – Comes across a bit thin! Lacking mid palate. Could it have been a sample issue? Tasted at the Grand Cercle.

Blanc de Réaut – Very pleasing nuances of peach and pear delivered in a smooth palate, but could use more brightness and verve. Chalk it up to the vintage factor? 87-89 Tasted at the Grand Cercle.

The whites from this estate have been consistently delicious and 2019 is no exception.

Le Blanc de Château de la Rivière* – White peach and a touch of Kiwi fruit, supple body and when served chilled should please the heck out of your guests for an outdoor party with hors d’oeuvres, social distance for COVID19 obligé of course 🙄 … Serve with salmon on blinis, olive tapenade on toasted bread, mini cheese pies (tyropitas) and other such yummies. Nice! 90-92 Tasted at the Grand Cercle.

Château Loudenne Blanc – A certain plump aspect, but with some of the verve, although it does not have the “visceral appeal” of the preceding wine: it comes across a bit boring. This is in bottle, not a sample! 87 Tasted at the Grand Cercle

La Rose Perrière – A bit of sulfite on the initial nose. Give it time in glass and you can appreciate the ripe, white peach aspect to the wine. It is gastronomic in nature. Not very long, but it has breadth and appeal. 88-90 Tasted at the Grand Cercle.

Magrez-Fombrauge Blanc – This has a somewhat thick Semillon feel, like a yellow apricot that is certainly ripe. It has character! I could imagine drinking this with roasted orange chicken, but it does not have the subtle nature of a great white. 88-90 Tasted at the Grand Cercle

Haut Bertinerie Blaye Blanc – This is 100% “old vine” Sauvignon Blanc. The color looks a bit evolved. Odd sample with aroma of oxidation. Strange color, almost an “orange wine”… Note obviously reserved. Tasted at the Grand Cercle

Château Lesparre Graves de Vayres Blanc – Some sugar aspect on the palate? What the heck? Note reserved. Tasted at the Grand Cercle.

For other dry white highlights from 2019, check out this page.

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